Lombardy is one of the 20 regions of Italy. The capital is Milan. A sixth of Italy’s population lives in Lombardy and about a fifth of Italy’s GDP is produced in the region, making it the most populous and richest region in the country and one of the richest in the whole of Europe. Major tourist destinations in the region include the historic, cultural and artistic cities of Milan (which is Italy’s second top tourist destination), Brescia, Mantua, Pavia, Como, Cremona, Bergamo, Sondrio,Varese, Monza, and the lakes of Garda, Como, Maggiore, and Iseo.
The official language, as in the rest of Italy, is Italian. The traditional local languages are the various dialects of Lombard (Western Lombard and Eastern Lombard), as well as some dialects of Emilian, spoken in some parts of the provinces of Mantua, Pavia, and Cremona. About 35% of the region’s population speak Lombard, almost totally in a situation of bilinguism with Italian. Although Lombardy as a region is often identified as merely an economic and industrial powerhouse, it has interesting examples even from the standpoint of cultural and artistic. The many examples range from prehistory to the present day, through the Roman period and the Renaissance and can be found both in museums and churches that enrich cities and towns around the region.
Lombardy contains numerous museums (over 330) of different types: ethnographic, historical, technical-scientific, artistic and naturalistic which testify to the historical-cultural and artistic development of the region. Among the most famous are the National Museum of Science and Technology “Leonardo da Vinci” (Milan), the The Last Supper of Leonardo da Vinci (Milan), the Museum of Santa Giulia (Brescia), the Accademia Carrara (Bergamo), the Volta Temple (Como), the Stradivari Museum (Cremona), the Palazzo Te (Mantua), the Museum Sacred Art of the Nativity and the basilica of Santa Maria Assunta at Gandino, the Royal Villa of Monza and many others.
Rice is popular in the region, often found in soups as well as risotti, such as “risotto alla Milanese”, with saffron. In the city of Monza a popular recipe also adds pieces of sausages to the risotto. Regional cheeses include robiola, crescenza, taleggio, gorgonzola and grana padano (the plains of central and southern Lombardy allow intensive cattle-raising). Butter and cream are used. Single pot dishes, which take less work to prepare, are popular. In Bergamo, Brescia, and Valtellina, polenta is common. In Valtellina, Pizzoccheri too. In Mantua festivals feature tortelli di zucca (ravioli with pumpkin filling) accompanied by melted butter and followed by turkey stuffed with chicken or other stewed meats.
Besides Milan, the region of Lombardy has 11 other provinces, most of them with equally great musical traditions. Bergamo is famous for being the birthplace of Gaetano Donizetti and home of the Teatro Donizetti; Brescia is hosts the impressive 1709 Teatro Grande; Cremona is regarded as the birthplace of the commonly used violin, and is home to several of the most prestigious luthiers in the world, and Mantua was one of the founding and most important cities in 16th and 17th opera and classical music. Other cities such as Lecco, Lodi, Varese and Pavia also have rich musical traditions, but Milan is the hub and centre of the Lombard musical scene. It was the workplace of Giuseppe Verdi, one of the most famous and influential opera composers of the 19th century, and boasts a variety of acclaimed theatres, such as the Piccolo Teatro and the Teatro Arcimboldi; however, the most famous is the 1778 Teatro alla Scala, one of the most important and prestigious operahouses in the world.
Lombardy has always been an important centre for silk and textile production, notably the cities of Pavia, Vigevano and Cremona, but Milan is the region’s most important centre for clothing and high fashion. In 2009, Milan was regarded as the world fashion capital, even surpassing New York, Paris, Rome and London. Most of the major Italian fashion brands, such as Valentino, Versace, Prada, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana (to name a few), are currently headquartered in the city.